Belmont is an affluent suburb of 24,000 residents midway between San Francisco and San Jose. The current library arose from a grass-roots effort by citizens groups. The city had initially applied for 10 million in state library bond funds to help pay costs, but the project was not selected for funding. Residents proceeded with local funds only, including a bond and private contributions. They raised enough to cover all project costs, including 8,270,000 or 409/sf for construction. While the new library is smaller than that originally envisioned, the 20,200 square foot facility is quadruple the size of the original building on the site. We were able to add surface parking and redevelop the surrounding hillside park, preserving and featuring a grove of heritage oak trees.
The library program is based on a new paradigm for library service, with self-check stations and automated book return replacing the traditional circulation desk. The entire library is served from one central desk, which faces patrons as they enter the space, and provides staff visibility to all of the main zones within the building. Complementing this efficient use of staff space are designated zones for adults, teens and children, plus numerous socially oriented areas: a central marketplace featuring new and popular books and other media, a caf run by the local social service agency, supervised homework center, computer lab, living room, story-telling alcove and community room. The natural slope of the hillside park behind the building was used to create an outdoor amphitheater for library programs and quiet reading around a fountain.
Our design highlights the beauty of the sites existing oak trees. The building wraps around trees, taking maximum advantage of views out into the grove and adjacent new playgrounds. From any place inside the library, you feel as if you are reading under the trees.
The floor plan and massing of the building are intentionally simple, so that attention could be paid to materials and details. Its L-shape positions the marketplace in the corner, flanked by the adult and childrens wings. The building section is kept low on the entry side, rising under a metal shed roof and wood slat ceiling to high glass walls facing the oaks.
Sustainable design permeates the building. The library exceeded 2001 Title 24 standards by 13 and was awarded a PGE Savings by Design citation. Carbon dioxide detectors help to maintain energy efficiency and indoor air quality. The high walls face north, providing maximum daylight with minimal glare or heat gain, and low-e, insulating glass was used throughout. High, operable panels in each glass wall provide natural ventilation on nice days. The buildings VAV mechanical system includes radiant heating along the base of the glass walls, with cooling and ventilation fed from the opposite walls. Materials include reconstituted rosewood paneling and casework, porcelain ceramic pavers, and high recycled content carpet.
The new library has become a focal point in the community, and has proven particularly popular with teens.